Tuesday, January 21, 2014
5 to watch: ACC signing day preview
By Jared Shanker
Signing day is a little more than two weeks away, meaning the next 15 days are going to be very interesting. Here are five storylines in the ACC to keep an eye on come signing day on Feb. 5.
Is Ermon Lane getting close to committing the Florida State?
1. Does Florida State land the nation’s Nos. 1 and 2 receivers? With each passing day, Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) moves closer to a Florida State lock. The former Gators pledge decommitted a few weeks ago, and his only official visit before signing day is set for Tallahassee. Malachi Dupre (River Ridge, La./John Curtis), the top-ranked receiver, is not the lean Lane is. However, Dupre is officially visiting the Seminoles this weekend, and the Noles could provide the biggest threat to LSU. Dupre is a big fan of Jameis Winston and the two have talked. Dupre is not shy about wearing FSU attire, either, so an eye-opening official visit followed up with an in-home visit could make the Noles a much more viable option for Dupre.
2. Does Miami rebound before signing day? Once sitting with the No. 3 class in the country, a series of ESPN 300 decommitments has the Canes on the ropes a little. Al Golden still has a top-10 class and is No. 2 in the conference, but losing this many ESPN 300 pledges -- all South Florida recruits -- this close to signing day definitely stings. The good news is defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (Hialeah, Fla./Champagnat Catholic), No. 176 in the ESPN 300, is taking an official visit to Miami the weekend of Jan. 31. He claims LSU is his leader and he visits the Tigers this weekend, but it is a good sign the local team gets the final visit. If Valentine breaks Miami’s heart a second time, four-star defensive tackle Michael Sawyers (Nashville, Tenn./The Ensworth School), a former Vanderbilt commit, could provide some insurance. After being hurt by decommitments, the Canes could take advantage of a few with Isaiah Ford (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian) and David Njoku (Cedar Grove, N.J./Cedar Grove). Ford and Njoku were previously committed to Louisville and Rutgers, respectively.
3. Will there be another peak or valley -- or both -- in the Hokies' roller-coaster recruiting cycle? There might not be a class in the ACC that has seen more ups and downs than Frank Beamer’s. The Hokies’ 2014 class started off with five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) considered close to a Hokies lock. And Hand was one of three five-star recruits from Virginia in 2014. By June, the Hokies were out of the race for all three. Beamer came back strong during the summer, though, and during the season, ESPN 300 defensive tackle Ricky Walker (Hampton, Va./Bethel) committed. With just a few weeks to go until signing day, the Hokies are in danger of losing key commitments with three-star tackle Brady Taylor flipped to Ohio State and Lakeland (Fla.) Kathleen athlete Ja’Von Harrison coming off an official visit to the Seminoles. Beamer is hoping his class does not slide any further before signing day and he can hold onto Harrison and also sign ESPN 300 defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes), who looks to be a slight Virginia Tech lean.
4. Does Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) sign outside the ACC? For several months it seemed as if Prince would either end up with Florida State or Maryland. Both looked to be the leaders at different points in Prince’s recruitment. But the top uncommitted tackle and No. 26 prospect in the ESPN 300 is coming off an official visit to South Carolina. The Gamecocks are a dark horse, but the team that is scaring the Noles and Terps is the team hosting Prince before signing day. Florida has skyrocketed up Prince’s board since the end of December, and he put the Gators in his top group in December despite Florida not having an offensive line coach at the time. Prince will make a signing-day decision, and the Gators could have all the momentum come Feb. 5. An official visit to Gainesville could come Jan. 24 or Jan. 31.
5. Can Florida State move into No. 2 and -- dare I say -- catch Bama? With the No. 3 class nationally, the Noles are hoping to add a few more pieces and finish with a top-two class for the third time in the last four cycles. The list of remaining targets for the Noles is an impressive one, and if FSU just adds a few it will be tough to knock them out of the top two. Add most or all, and FSU could possibly catch Alabama’s number of ESPN 300 commits (17) and maybe surpass the Crimson Tide. Five-star Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) has the Noles as a finalist, as does his ESPN 300 teammate Myles Autry. Five-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover) and Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield), No. 60 in the ESPN 300, were in Tallahassee this weekend for official visits. Dupre, Lane and Prince are all realistic options as discussed above. ESPN 300 tackle Roderick Johnson (Florrisant, Mo./Hazelwood Central) has the Noles as his leader and there does not seem to be a close No. 2. The Noles flipped Dalvin Cook and very well could land another former Gators commit in J.C. Jackson (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee) if Jackson follows through with an official visit. ESPN 300 defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes) is also in play.